Sorry about the title, I’m probably a bit sleep deprived. I’m at my friend’s working on a new book while he does art stuff.
From next week I’ll be posting a spooky themed video made by myself each Tuesday of October, but I thought I’d start Halloween early by sharing other people’s videos of burlesque performances. I like any kind of burlesque but if it has a Gothic twist, or twenties, or circus sideshow it’s even better.
I’ll start with Missy Macabre, partly because I once interviewed her for Bizarre magazine and partly because she manages to combine the twenties, Gothic and sideshow all in one human:
Next is Obskyura, who is basically a modern Josephine Baker in this act:
Quick announcement: Bill and I are having a holiday at home, so after this post I shall see you in two weeks’ time.
Before the motion picture industry solidified in the 20s, The tens and 1890s were a period of gleeful experimentation, much like the advancement of YouTube from dramatic gophers to defined communities and vloggers.
From the cinéma vérité of the Lumière Brothers, the fantastical whimsy of Georges Méliès, the glamour and fun of Alice Guy-Blaché and the innovation of the world’s first animators, everyone had something they wanted to test. Vaudeville stars of the Belle Epoque and big events were a natural draw, but sometimes events don’t go according to plan, vaudeville acts seem alien to modern eyes and other things… are just odd.
The Balancing Bluebottle/The Acrobatic Fly (F. Percy Smith, 1910)
I honestly felt sick after watching this. It’s fascinating though and I couldn’t look away. But…yeah I still felt sick.
A fly is glued to a matchstick by the wings, it’s strength tested by placing objects onto it’s flailing legs, one of the objects being a dead fly. Yep, it spins around the corpse of it’s brethren on frantic arthropodic feet. You know that shudder Bart does in the Simpsons…
Fish (Bert Williams, 1916)
This next one isn’t creepy so much as sad. Bert Williams wrote and directed two films, unheard of for a person of colour back then. However this two reeler is very light on humour and audiences had a hard time accepting him, as a 42 year old man, playing a boy. Added to the mix are parents played by white people in black face with incredibly poor comic timing and pathos that leaves the viewer depressed.
Bert was never able to reach his full ambition, stuck as he was in ‘black’ roles often in blackface. Friend and fellow vaudevillian WC Fields said “Bert Williams was the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”
On stage and in his other short he was a more subtle comedian. After the disappointment of Fish he returned to live performances.
Death jump from the Eiffel Tower, 1912
On the 4th February, 1912, Franz Reichelt was scheduled to test his homemade parachute by jumping from a great height. Nobody in the watching crowd or French and British media thought to tell him it was a bad idea and off he went, falling from the tower to his unfortunate death.
The Dancing Pig (1907)
The internet is quite familiar with a small section of this vaudeville performance, namely the titular pig gurning grotesquely at the end. The rest is pretty darn odd too, involving public humiliation and torment. All in good fun though.
Perhaps it’s my phobia of dead bugs (live ones I’m fine with though, no idea why) that leads me to find this film so shudder inducing. It’s a shame because this satire by the Polish, Russian and French stop motion animator is really incredible.
The cast of deceased insects perform an operatic melodrama of betrayed love and revenge in a mischievous swipe at popular theatre.
Either this film is meant to show the absurdity of men who protested against the suffragette movement or it’s an indictment of what could happen if allowed to continue. Seeing as Alice was a filmmaker herself I’d prefer to believe the former, but we just don’t know.
This ambitious project was one of the first feature length films ever made (the first being The Kelly Gang, 1906). It’s packed with disturbing imagery from cannibalism to tortured souls and remains hauntingly fascinating to this day.
Good day weary popcorn snacks, I’m so close to completing a third novella/connected short story collection/thing I can almost see it in my hand.
Recently I made a post on my favourite crime/creepy info YouTube channels but was unaware of the hidden gem of Obsolete Oddity. Serial killers, creepy twins, old ladies locked in rooms for decades… if you have a spare ten minutes visit his channel and give one of his videos a watch, there’s plenty more where these came from.
The Strange Case of Emilie Sagée & her Ghostly Twin
The French Socialite Locked in her Attic for 25 Years – Blanche Monnier
The Pickled Human Flesh Seller – Karl Denke
The Booby Trapped Hoarders Mansion – The Collyer Brothers Documentary
True Unsolved Crime – The Locked Room Mystery – 1929
Afternoon my little chicks almost ready to fledge the nest! I’m currently reading the oddest books I can find for Friday’s Bizarre Book Club post but in the meantime here’s a bunch of great vintage items I saw yesterday at Battlesbridge Antique Centre.
The room filled with coin operated machines such as the hanging man execution, peep shows, laughing sailor and fortune teller had me hopping for joy as did the taxidermy. I filmed a few and added the video below if you’d like to see them in action. Imagine you’re at the seaside in the 1920s looking for some fun and titillation. Enjoy!
Everybody loved The Artist, it was sweet and entertaining, but there are a few more films invoking earlier cinematic styles that I’ve enjoyed just as much if not more. Let’s have a peek at these morsels of delight (I don’t know, it’s the meds).
It’s prohibition in America but Canada doesn’t need to worry about that (Guy Maddin is an enthusiastic Canadian). To advertise her company beer baron Isabella Rossellini decides to hold a contest to see which nation can play the saddest music in the world. An American takes part and proceeds to fill his songs with crass schmaltz and showy dances.
As a friend of mine said, it has all the enchantment of early cinema with modern daft humour, which is probably my favourite mix.
2. La Antena. An Argentinian film by Esteban Sapir, this heavily invokes directors like Fritz Lang and Luis Bunuel. It’s visually beautiful and enjoyable to watch, and is an interesting take on the subject of Fascism. An entire city has lost it’s voice, save for one woman and her son who she tries to keep a secret.
Apologies, couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles:
3. Careful.Another offering from Guy Maddin, this is a little darker (though still silly of course) and tells the story of an Alpine village who must keep quiet to avoid the murderous and frequent avalanches.
This is two stories in one telling how isolation can lead to odd and incestuous thoughts. In the first it’s a son in love with his mother and the second a daughter with her father, although he appears to favour her sister. There are some very pretty touches, such as the coal miner’s candle helmet.
4. The Forbidden Zone.It’s probably the most out-there of all these offerings and is definitely not for children. There are one or two horrifically offensive things in it which I didn’t feel needed to be in there at all, but I’m not the film maker so what do I know eh?
However, this is essentially a live action Max Fleischer cartoon (of Betty Boop fame) and the songs are quite catchy, and the whole thing is so bizarre and odd and juvenile that you probably just need to let it wash over you. Directed by Richard Elfman, his brother Danny (you might know him) and his band Oingo Boingo did the music and pop up as the devil and his minions singing Minnie the Moocher. I think it’s at least entertainingly weird, and that’s probably all that matters.
This post I stumbled across contains a couple of my favourite things, vintage things and amusing attitudes. However, how much have things really changed, and were men equally targeted for advertising abuse? These are things I wish to know, and maybe someday will learn.
Have a read and stumble upon such delights as this warning about what might happen if you don’t wash… down there:
As an added treat here’s a humorously sexist coffee advert from the early sixties: